Royals still searching to fill final rotation spot

January 27th, 2020

KANSAS CITY -- Perhaps the most interesting camp battle for the Royals during Spring Training will be for the fifth spot in the rotation.

The Royals already have , , and cemented as their top four starters for 2020. The fifth spot is up for grabs.

Don’t rule out the possibility that one of the Royals’ young pitching studs such as (Royals' No. 2 prospect per MLB Pipeline), (No. 3) and (No. 5), getting their first taste of a big-league camp and winning the final spot in the rotation.

“I feel really good about some of those kids coming sooner than later but that’s always the delicate balance with young players and pitchers,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore told at FanFest last weekend. “How do you transition them into the Major Leagues? One of the things you want to rely on is ‘Are they mentally ready to go?’ Physically, we can all recognize that – the numbers tell us that, the data tells us that, we can evaluate the ability. But what is the most difficult to evaluates is what is up here (pointing to his head). That’s where you have to rely on your staff to forecast if they are mentally ready.”

The Royals’ front office, though, would not be shocked if one of those young pitchers rises up in camp and grabs the fifth spot.

“We wouldn’t (be surprised),” Moore said. “We don’t put limitations on our guys. We have a battle plan like anyone else. We have a script like anyone else on when a player might be ready to make it to the Major Leagues. Strong organizations, healthy organizations, aren’t afraid to be flexible in their plans. The player ultimately tells us if they are ready.”

The Royals, however, are still investigating the possibility of signing some veteran starters for the rotation.

“We feel really good about our team,” Moore said. “I’m not completely comfortable with our starting pitching depth. It’s as much about supply and demand. We do feel and recognize we have a lot of talented young pitching on the horizon and we don’t want to get in the way of their advancement. But at the same time we’re trying to make an advance decision that a lot of those guys will start the season in the Minor Leagues. And that creates a depth issues at the Major League level.

“That being said, we feel really good where Brad Keller is, and where Danny Duffy is. I’m really excited to watch Duff compete. I really think you’re going to see a breakout year for Duff. I really do. Jakob Junis has one of the better sliders in all of baseball. And, of course, Mike Montgomery, he’s a great competitor who has pitched on championship teams. He has a foundation and a platform (as a starter) where he can take a step forward. I really like those guys.”

Right-handers and started 41 games in 2019 but won’t necessarily be in line for the fifth spot. Both may be utilized to shore up the bullpen.

“Mike (Matheny) and I have talked a lot about using our better arms in the bullpen and better utilizing them,” Moore said. “We want to take advantage of when Brad and Danny and Jake and Monty give us a great start. We want to be able to take advantage of those situations and make sure we can win those games and match up better in the 7-8-9 (innings).

“Right now, we need someone to step up better in that fifth role. We want to utilize perhaps Sparky (Glenn Sparkman) and Lopey (Jorge López) in the 'pen. We think they can be impactful in those roles.”